The Astros made another trade on Monday, this time shipping shortstop Jed Lowrie to Oakland.
That leaves a sizable hole to fill in the middle infield.
Lowrie played 97 games last season, missing time with ankle and thumb injuries. But he was one of the few guys who were penciled in at a position looking ahead to 2013.
With Lowrie’s being gone, general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Tuesday that Tyler Greene and Marwin Gonzalez are the frontrunners to fill the vacant spot.
“Whenever opportunity knocks, that’s when the real player really shows up,” first-year manager Bo Porter said. “We’re hoping that those guys grab the bull by the horns and take charge of the shortstop position.”
Gonzalez played in 80 games for the Astros last season, hitting .234 with 13 doubles and 12 RBIs. The Red Sox selected Gonzalez in the Rule 5 draft, then traded him to the Astros, where he made the opening day roster. Gonzalez started 38 games at short and played in 47. He committed his only five errors of the season at shortstop and had a fielding percentage of .971. Gonzalez took over when Lowrie went down but Gonzalez then had a heel injury, which kept him out for an extended period of time.
Greene came to Houston in a trade from the Cardinals in early August. He played 39 games with the Astros and batted .246 with seven homers and 11 RBIs. Green started 30 games at shortstop, where he committed six errors and had a .953 fielding percentage.
There’s also the very possible scenario that neither guy wins the job during Spring Training. That would set up a platoon situation, which Porter said would be OK with him.
“For me, from the manager position, Marwin is a switch-hitter, he’s probably better from the left side than the right side,” Porter said. “Tyler Greene is right-handed, so it gives us confidence knowing that we have two guys on our roster, and if need be, they could be in a platoon situation, which gives you a pretty solid everyday player.”
While Gonzalez and Green are the frontrunners, according to Luhnow, he also mentioned 25-year-old Jake Elmore, who the Astros claimed off waivers last November. Luhnow said Elmore “will be in the mix as well.”
While Lowrie would have probably given the Astros the best player at the shortstop position in 2013, the organization felt confident enough in the players they have this year and the players at that position in the farm system made it easier to pull the trigger.
“When you look at the trade, you also have to look at your organization,” Porter said. “Having a kid like (Jonathan) Villar, who’s not that far away from performing at Triple-A and then having (Carlos) Correa, the No. 1 pick from last year, you look at your organization and say we’re pretty set at shortstop. It’s a position where we have some flexibility because we have Greene and Gonzalez already in the pipeline in the system, it allows us to upgrade in other places.”